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Arthur Smith discusses Ryan Nielsen, Jerry Gray hires, plus announces who will coach Falcons quarterbacks

Smith said Dave Ragone will oversee quarterbacks, in addition to his role as offensive coordinator

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons' coaching staff is officially set for the upcoming season. There have been new coaches added to the mix and a few familiar faces elevated to different roles. In an exclusive sit-down interview with on Monday, head coach Arthur Smith details the decision-making into how he rounded out his coaching staff.

When asked about what went into hiring Ryan Nielsen as defensive coordinator, it was primarily about fit and the plan he has implemented for the future of the Falcons' defense.

"We had a very long and thorough process," Smith said. "It was great. We got to talk to a lot of different candidates. For us, it's all about fit. There's other great coaches in this league but Ryan fits us and our culture."

Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen is interviewed by media during a press conference in the Jimmy Cribb Media Room at Ticketmaster Studios inside the Atlanta Falcons headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Monday, February 6, 2023. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

In addition, Nielsen's background as a former defensive lineman at Southern California and co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach for the Saints is what attracted Smith to him when making the decision to bring Nielsen to Atlanta.

"That's another big-picture thinker," Smith said. "A guy that was a former defensive lineman. I love his vision to develop players, and really schematically, where this is going and how we want to defend certain things."


Smith announced that it will be Nielsen who will oversee the defensive line, working alongside defensive front specialist Lanier Goethie and senior defensive assistant Dave Huxtable.

Assistant head coach/defense Jerry Gray will oversee the backend of the defense, working with secondary coach Steve Jackson. Gray, a former defensive backs coach for several NFL teams, and Smith have familiarity with each other after serving on the Tennessee Titans coaching staff together from 2011-2013.

"Since I was last with Jerry in Tennessee, he's certainly changed and adapted," Smith said. "He's been at Minnesota and in Green Bay. He's had to face a lot of really good quarterbacks being in the NFC North. Different variations of coverages and things he's learned along the way. He really fits into our culture and we're really excited to have Jerry, too."

Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dave Ragone and quarterback Desmond Ridder #4 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Wednesday, December 14, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

Looking on the offensive side of the ball, Smith answered the question about who the Falcons quarterbacks' coach will be in 2023. Offensive coordinator Dave Ragone will oversee the quarterback position in addition to his role as coordinator. Ragone, a former NFL quarterback, worked hand-in-hand with previous quarterbacks coach Charles London the past two seasons. London was named Tennessee's passing game coordinator in early February. Michael Pitre and T.J. Yates will continue to coach the running backs and wideouts.

Join us as we take a look back at our favorite photos of our home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, during the 2022 Atlanta Falcons season.

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